Despite almost a third of the city’s confirmed coronavirus cases being in Queens, one region of the borough has remained relatively untouched.
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For a number of reasons, northeast Queens has thus far escaped the worst of the pandemic. For example, Bayside has 265 residents who have tested positive, about one-ninth of the cases than in Corona, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest.
Dr. Harlem Gunness, the director of Public Health at St. John’s University, first pointed to Bayside and other surrounding communities having a lower population density than other regions in Queens. He says that just 1.8 percent of households in Bayside are considered crowded, compared to 10 percent of the households in Corona and Elmhurst.
“You have to think of overcrowding and crowding density and how people are living," he said. “Do they have the ability to social isolate in very crowded, densely populated communities? If not, do we have the resources to help them isolate or socially distance themselves?"
The median household income in Bayside, Little Neck, and Douglaston is about $78,000. In Corona and Elmhurst, it’s $47,000.
Another factor: 67 percent of Corona residents need take public transportation to work, and the average household does not have a car. But northeast Queens is not even served by the subway, and according to Census data, the average household in Bayside has 2 vehicles.
“I think it’s where you live, but also sort of how your environment is set up," explained Dr. Melody Goodman, Associate Dean of Research and Biostatistics at the NYU School of Global Public Health. "Like, how do we get to and from places? How do we do our daily commute? How do we do our daily activities?"
Epidemiologists say ethnic and cultural forces and might be at work, too. About 44 percent of residents in Bayside, Little Neck, and Douglaston are Asian, and city numbers show the coronavirus death rate for Asian New Yorkers is about 8-per-100,000; compared to 10-per-100,000 for whites, 20-per-100,000 for blacks, and 22-per-100,000 for Hispanics.
"There’s some evidence to suggest that countries that have been through something like this before have a better response, and their population and residents know how to respond better," Goodman said. "Even though many of these people probably have been in America even when SARS broke out, they have family back in China or family somewhere in Asia who have gone through these things."
Both experts say the data is crucial to understanding not just how neighborhoods are effected, but also how to set guidelines to stop the spread in diverse communities, like those in Queens.